Back to the salt mines…sorta.

Most of you who read this blog with any regularity know that I’ve been working as a full-time freelance writer since leaving my corporate job in September 2014. Prior to that, any writing I did for novels, short stories, magazine articles or the web was done outside of that job, usually in the evenings or on weekends/holidays.

Though I’ve enjoyed the freedom afforded by the “freelancer lifestyle,” I’ve also come to realize that I do miss the structure of a “regular job” in an office, interacting and collaborating with other humans. For a while, now, I’ve been conducting quiet job searches, looking for something interesting enough that it could entice me to shave and wear pants on a daily basis.

Well, I found it. Beginning Monday, November 27th, I’m returning to an office environment, but not the realm of information technology/software development. Instead, I’ll be working as ………. wait for it ………. a writer!

This came about due to an opportunity crossing my path, which I found to be unlike pretty much everything else I’d seen on places like LinkedIn, Indeed, and other job sites. Instead, this one was quite simply too interesting to ignore. After applying and interviewing for the position, I knew that my initial gut reaction was right, and this presented a challenge I couldn’t pass up. Apparently, the folks on the other side of the table viewed things in similar fashion, as they offered me the job. 🙂

I’m genuinely excited by this (slight) change in direction, which will allow me to bring to bear what I consider to be a rather diverse set of skills and experience. In addition to the obvious one (um, writing?), editing, a bit of tech, and my military background will all be utilized, and my interests in military history and current affairs and even veterans issues may well come into play. I’ll also be getting some hands-on experience with graphic design and layout using products like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, which I confess are skills I’ve wanted to learn for a while, now.

In keeping with the self-imposed rule I had in place during my previous stint at a “regular job,” you’re not likely to see me posting or commenting about it or any related matters in this space or the other areas of my social media platform. Indeed, I’ve always refrained from even listing my current employer as part of my profiles, because I prefer to keep that part of my “world” separate from this.

You know……whatever the hell “this” is.

Here’s the rub: Because what I’ll be writing will be for publication, it’s possible – even likely – that a segment of my current readership will see my byline at some point. So, it’s not as though I’m looking to keep things “secret” or anything. Just know that if and when the subject comes up, any inquiries or comments about that work likely will be directed to the proper channels. For example, the people for whom I’m writing have their own social media presence. It remains to be seen if I’ll be contributing in any way to that, but for the moment I’m going with “No.” We shall see.

The main impact here will be that I likely won’t be posting as much during the weekdays. My new employers are aware of my fiction/genre writing and my social media activities, but that won’t give me license to frequent this space during the workday. Based on what I’ve been told to expect so far as my regular duties, my days will be more “sane” than what I used to deal with a few years ago. Though I expect the occasional bout of overtime as needed to keep schedules on track, I should still be left with plenty of brain cells, energy, and desire to continue slinging words in a fiction-like fashion.

And speaking of that? Worry not, as I’m definitely not giving that up. In addition to three projects for which I’ve delivered my manuscripts and I’m currently awaiting next steps, I’m under contract to write a novel for which my outline’s not yet been given the green light, and there are two other projects for which I’m currently awaiting contracts before I start digging in on them.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…..I need to go make sure I have pants to wear for Monday.

mad-writer

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A proposed modification to office meeting policies.

So, this morning, I’m having a conversation on Facebook with a friend, who drops this bit of “Monday” on me: Apparently, someone in charge at his office called a meeting, and once everyone was present, confessed that he had real idea why the meeting was being held. The “in charge” person basically said, “I have no idea what I’m supposed to be asking here.”

This, of course, prompted reactions from the group that likely were variations of this:

AngryApe

I’ve been in my share of meetings where there seemed to be no defined purpose for the gathering, other than interrupting whatever work we were supposed to be doing. It’s one thing for the rank and file to be clueless when they’re called into a room (keeping your people uninformed being a pillar of modern management, and all), but if you’re the one who’s supposedly got the plan hiding among those flash cards you’re holding close to your vest, you’re expected to drop knowledge on your subordinates every so often.

People who failed at this usually irritated the shit out of me.

Therefore, I propose this modification to office meeting policy:

If you call a meeting, and once everyone is assembled you announce that you don’t see the point of the meeting or – worse – have no idea why the meeting is being called in the first place, you are then required to perform a lip synch rendition of a song from a pre-approved list. Said list is to be compiled and approved by all members of a team or group that participates in the affected meetings.

Barring the existence of such a list, or if an agreement cannot be reached so far as any options from said list, the default selection will be “The Jackal.”

Discuss.

And so it goes.

logan-lifeclock

I’ve been pretty busy the last several days, getting the novel in-progress whipped into something resembling a manuscript that won’t make my editor want to run in front of a bus. In and around all of that, there have been some other things happening. A close circle of friends knew ahead of time, but now we’re here and I figure I may as well share the news with the rest of you. After all, it certainly will affect things going forward, including what you might be seeing here…hopefully for the better.

Last Friday, my corporate life clock officially turned black, as it was my last day with my full-time employer. Basically, the account we had with our client came to an end, and my choices were to attempt to find a new position within the company, or receive a severance package as part of a “work force reduction.” After investigating the available opportunities and knowing that relocation was not a real option (you may recall that we just moved into a new house back in the spring), I chose Door #2.

Though my time with Hewlett-Packard now has come to an end, I can honestly say that the experience of being let go has been about as decent and dignified as I think these things get. We were told months ago that this (likely) would happen, we were kept up to date as developments came about, and there have been all sorts of tools and such to aid with the transition. I actually had my first brush with a layoff back in 2003 while working for Sprint. That company had outsourced a lot of its IT work to two other firms, IBM and Electronic Data Systems (EDS), and I was one of the lucky ones who was hired (by EDS) to support that work. Later, when EDS was acquired by HP in 2008, I once again was one of the fortunate folks to be carried over. One of the nice things that EDS did when they hired me was bridge my employment with Sprint, and HP did the same, giving me a cumulative total of 16 years for purposes of–among other things–vacation, retirement/401k contributions, and, at the end of it all, my severance package.

So, as none of this was a surprise, I (and the other people so affected) had plenty of time to plan. In addition to checking the postings within HP, I also was looking into employment alternatives with another company. However, as I scanned what jobs were available, crossing out those where I didn’t think my skill sets were a match or which required relocation, I started understanding that what was left either would pay much less than I was earning or just be something I simply didn’t want to do.

Then, I began to realize something else: I just didn’t want to do any of this shit anymore.

For one thing, I’ve been in IT for almost 30 years. Call it a midlife crisis, or a crisis of confidence that maybe I wouldn’t be able to find something where I was a good fit and would be able to make decent money, but the idea of starting over at or near the bottom of someone else’s corporate cubicle farm was disconcerting, to say the least.

Therefore, this week started with me in a position I’ve not known since I had my first job at age 16: Unemployed.

Well, not really.

After a couple of long discussions with She Who Is My Wife and My Rock, and with her actually and *actively* encouraging me to do so, I made a bold choice: I’m going into business for myself, kinda sorta. While I was checking out the IT job listings, I also was quietly making inquiries about the possibility of securing more freelance work. I’ve mentioned every so often that I’ve had to pass on projects because balancing my day job along with the writing I already had on my plate saw to it that I just didn’t have the time to commit to anything more. When I approached a few folks with news of my “increased availability,” the early feedback I got in a couple of cases was a variation of, “Where the hell have you been? I’ll put your ass to work right now,” which was gratifying.

One thing I seem to have in my favor that wasn’t necessarily the case a decade ago is that I’ve had a decade more to build a reputation as somebody worth hiring (I’m told) as well as a network of connections. With all of that apparently going for me–along with the support over the years of a growing and loyal readership–as well as that aforementioned severance package to cushion the landing, I’ve decided to pursue writing full-time.

As I write this, and after delivering the manuscript for my latest novel to its editor, I have signed contracts for two more novels (one solo, the other a collaboration with Kevin), and verbal agreements for two more after that, with the contracts on the way. There have been discussions about future books as well as other projects. I’m starting to get serious about an original SF concept that’s been percolating for a bit and which I hope to shop to publishers, and I’m even planning to dip my toe a bit deeper into the self-publishing pool. I like to think I’m pretty adaptable, and I’m willing to entertain anything that sounds interesting.

Have words, will write. And all that.

So, I’m gonna get a bit of my Hank Moody on for a while–hopefully without the endless train of bad decisions–and I guess we’ll see what we’ll see, right? I’m hopeful, excited, and a little scared…all at the same time.

And so it goes.

It’s official, now. Oh, and other stuff.

I think I had about a bazillion people e-Mailing me this morning with the following link:

The New York Times – Best Sellers – Mass Market Paperback Fiction – Jan. 19th, 2014

Okay, the number was probably closer to eleventy dozen. Anyway, folks wanted me to know about it when I sat down today, so thanks very much for the collective heads-up! I remain as groovy-feeling as I did when I first got the news.

In other news, we got an offer on our house yesterday, and it looks like we may be finalizing those terms today. Our efforts to secure Ward Manor 2.0, already hovering between two houses we really like, will now accelerate. We’re going back to look at them again in the next day or so in order to make our final decision.

Countering that was the apparent death of my work laptop (for the day job). That’s frustrating to deal with, but I’m thankful the thing chose to die after the completion and distribution of critical, time-sensitive reports and deliverables. Now, at least, I have breathing room to address the issue and either get the laptop re-imaged or replaced. Luckily, my employer’s pretty good about responding to such crises.

Oh, and Kevin and I still have a novel deadline looming at the beginning of February, so there’s that….

I guess it’s back to work time!

A conversation at work.

So, a co-worker and I are reviewing an error message generated by the third-party software application that our group uses to perform a significant part of our work. Though most of the core software was written by another company, we also add on scripts, GUI screens, and other functionality to suit our needs.

We’re looking at the error message spit out by the app, and I go digging into the online help to get the description, probable causes, likely courses of corrective action, and so on. Now, I’m a guy with many, many years of software development experience (as in, some of the younger folk reading this weren’t even born when I wrote my first programs). So, it was probably inevitable that I’d say what I said when I beheld what the software laughingly called its “internal documentation.”

Me: “Who wrote this piece of shit?”

Co-worker: “A programmer.”

Me: “A real programmer, or a ‘I took a course at The Learning Annex because I heard an ad on the radio’ programmer?”

Thank you for the inspiration, Richard Castle. 🙂

Can I bum a ride?

My truck’s been in the shop the past three days.

This past weekend, my “check engine” light came on. At first nothing obvious appeared to be wrong, but shortly after that I noticed that when I was stopped at a light, the truck needed more gas to get going, almost like it was stuck in a higher gear. Once I was up to speed, everything was fine, so I figured it had to be something with the transmission. A quick check once I got back to the house confirmed that all the various fluids were at their proper levels. I also noted that the problem didn’t seem to affect the reverse gear. With the limited means at my disposal, I was able to produce one of those diagnostic codes on the odometer that gave me a hint as to the problem: Yep, something with the transmission. I know a few basics about auto care, but when it gets much beyond preventative maintenance and a handful of other simple tasks, I’m out of my depth. At this point, I had no choice but to take it in for service. It was drivable, but I didn’t like the idea of having the beast struggle to get moving while in traffic. I had to hold off until Tuesday before I could take it in for service.

It’s Thursday morning, and I still don’t have my truck. The folks at the Dodge dealer tell me they know what’s wrong (a failed component that regulates the “overdrive” or something, which essentially locked the transmission into third gear, explaining the sluggishness from a stop.). With luck, it’ll be fixed today. With better luck, the work will still be covered under the 70,000 mile power-train warranty. Still, I haven’t been this long without a vehicle since I was a teenager.

So, I’ve been stuck working at home the past couple of days, which has its advantages (no rush hour traffic, don’t have to shave, can wear sweats all day, etc.), but I do miss the interaction with my co-workers.